For the first time in school history, both the Florida men's and women's track and field teams won the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship. The men's team edged out Arkansas 128-126, while the Gator women scored 105.50 points hold off Tennessee.
This is the first time since 1996 that the Arkansas men's team did not with the SEC Indoor title. The Gator women have now won an SEC title for three consecutive years (2002 indoor, 2003 outdoor, 2004 indoor).
"Our goal was to come in and be SEC champions. Our goal was not to come in and beat Arkansas," said Florida men's track and field coach Mike Holloway. "Obviously we had to beat them to do that. (Arkansas) coach (John) McDonnell has done a phenomenal job for years and years, and to be able to line up and get it done like that is great. I'm very proud of this group. I've never been more proud of our guys in my life."
Antonio Emperator started Sunday's scoring for the Gator men, finishing fourth with a mark of 19.63m/64-5.00 in the weight throw to add five points to Florida's total. Ryan McIntyre finished 10th in the event with a throw of 18.34m/60-2.00, which is a personal best for him.
The biggest story of the morning was the men's high jump, in which five Gators scored points. Joe Squittieri won his second consecutive SEC indoor title in the event, clearing a season-best 2.21m/7-3.00. Squittieri is the first Gator to record back-to-back SEC indoor high jump titles since Jim Pringle in 1979 and 1980. Mike Morrison finished second with a jump if 2.21m/7-3.00, placing behind Squittieri by misses. Jay Lindsay and Alex Harris tied for sixth place, each clearing 2.05m/6-8.75, and Jordan Davis rounded out the scoring for Florida in the event, clearing 2.05m/6-8.75 on misses. All totaled, the Gators scored 24 points in the event to take over the team lead.
Prior to the finish of the running events, Kim Barrett won her first SEC title in the shot put, winning with a school-record and SEC-record mark of 17.81m/58-5.25. Candice Scott was the runner-up with a career-best throw of 16.88m/55-4.75, and Karen Freberg rounded out the top three with a mark of 16.52m/54-2.50. Akera Lathan added points for Florida, finishing fourth with a mark of 15.97m/52-4.75, and LaQuanda Cotten placed sixth (15.55m/51-00.25) to finish the scoring for the Gators. In both throws events, the Florida women tallied 61 points to dominate the events.
In the first running event final of the day, Josh Walker won his first SEC title, winning the 60m hurdles in 7.70. Kerron Clement finished seventh in 7.92, and Rickey Harris finished ninth in 8.03. Kyle Farmer scored three points for Florida with his sixth-place finish in the 60m dash, crossing the line in 6.79.
Arkansas took over the men's team lead by one point after placing second through fourth in the mile. Shane Stroup placed sixth in the event in 4:05.49, and Moise Joseph finished eighth in 4:08.50.
The Gators came back strong in the 400m dash, scoring 19 points in the event to re-claim the team lead. Clement finished second in 46.32, with Harris right behind him in third in a season-best 46.41 and Reggie Witherspoon in fourth, finishing in 46.51.
Paul Condron had a huge seasonal-best in the pole vault, finishing second after clearing 5.32m/17-5.50. Chip Heuser was right behind Condron, tallying six points by finishing third (5.25m/17-2.75). Those points put the Gators ahead of Arkansas by a score of 120-116 with just the relays left.
Florida fought off Arkansas throughout the distance medley relay, falling behind the Razorbacks on the last backstretch to finish second behind them. That closed the Gator lead to 128-126 heading into the 4x400m relay, with Florida needing only to finish ahead of Arkansas to win the team title. On the second lap of the event, Arkansas' Maurice Bridges and South Carolina's Rodney fell and did not finish the race. The Gators held on to finish in the fastest time, but the officials disqualified the Florida team for causing the Arkansas and South Carolina runners to fall. But because the Razorbacks did not finish the race, the Gators claimed their first SEC Indoor title since 1988.
On the women's side, Novlene Williams set the school record in the 400m dash for the second time in as many days, clocking in at 51.55, which was good for second overall. Tiandra Ponteen also scored in the event, finishing sixth in 52.78. Andrea Bliss finished fifth in the 60m hurdles, clocking in at 8.28 to score four points for the Gators. In the 800m, Kamille Bratton finished third in 2:05.77 to add six points to the Gators' total heading into the final relay events of the meet.
Tennessee claimed the women's distance medley relay event, while the Gators finished sixth in 11:49.07. With that relay finish, the Gators' lead on the Lady Vols was just five points at 99.50-94.50. Florida only needed to finish ahead of Tennessee in the 4x400m relay to win the SEC team title. Not only did they finish third to Tennessee's fourth, the Gators set the school record in the event in the process, clocking in at a blazing 3:31.00.
Chandra Lacombe finished fifth in the pole vault, clearing 3.81m/12-6.00, while Dara Altman finished tied for eighth after clearing 3.66m/12-0.00. In her first triple jump of the season, Cameal Rhule finished sixth (12.30m/40-4.25) to add three points to Florida's total.
"They really did a nice job in every event," said UF women's track and field coach Tom Jones. "The throws were a big factor, because not only are they conference level points - they're national level points. It's the same with the 400m and the 60m hurdles. We had some school record in the 400m, the 4x400, the shot put, we had a lot of personal bests - it was a great meet for us."
The Gators return home to host the Fast Times Qualifier - the last meet for athletes to qualify before the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on March 12-13.
Final Team Scores
1. Florida, 128 2. Arkansas, 126 3. Auburn, 83 4. LSU, 71 5. Georgia, 71 6. Tennessee, 60 7. South Carolina, 39 8. Kentucky, 32 9. Alabama, 31 10. Mississippi, 16WOMEN
1. Florida, 105.50 2. Tennessee 99.50 3. LSU, 84.50 4. Georgia, 81 5. South Carolina, 72 6. Arkansas, 50.50 7. Auburn, 48 8. Kentucky, 42 9. Vanderbilt, 25 10. Alabama, 25 11. Mississippi State, 21 12. Mississippi, 9SEC Individual Champions This Weekend
Men (2): Joe Squittieri - high jump, 2.21m/7-3.00; Josh Walker, 60m hurdles, 7.70
Women (2): Kim Barrett - shot put, 17.81m/58-5.25; Candice Scott - weight throw, 22.74m/74-7.25